I've been mulling this post over in my head for the past few weeks but I'm having a hard time finding the words. My friend's son was diagnosed with Stage IV Lymphoma a few weeks ago. Tanner is 2 and a half. For the record, that's only 6 months older than Conor. Take a moment and let that sink in. Think of what you know about cancer and think of what you know about two and a half year olds and try to put those two pictures together.
Reina, Tanner's mom, is an old friend who has settled into an acquaintance. She throws a "Girls Christmas Party" every year and 20 or so old friends get together to drink and socialize and exchange gifts. Most years I only see Reina and many of the other girls at the Christmas Party.
I stopped by last night to drop off dinner to Reina and her family. Another friend established a dinner calendar and I think Reina's family has dinner ready for them through at least the middle of February. Last night was also the first night I had met Tanner or his older brother, Tyler. Like I said, Reina and I see each other only at the Christmas party and its a NO KIDS ALLOWED type of shindig.
Walking into her house, carrying my stupid enchilada trays and seeing Tanner in jammies with no hair, well, I was barely able to keep it together. I just kept looking at him thinking "Oh my God, he could be Conor". And then thinking, and I barely want to admit this but maybe I'm not the only one, "Thank God, its not Conor." Oh the guilt. Of course I wouldn't wish this, cancer, on anyone, but I feel lucky and guilty and scared because it hasn't happened to us. But it could. It so easily could.
What I'm struggling most with is the why. I know, logically, that there is no why. There's no simple way to explain why some kids get cancer and some are perfectly healthy. And I think I can deal with that. I get the whole, 'bad things happen to good people' thing. But here's the thing, Reina and Ty's older son, Tyler, was diagnosed with Transverse Mylietis when he was about 9 months old. From what I understand, this is an extremely rare condition which has, unfortunately, left him paralyzed. My first thought, when I heard about Tanner's diagnosis, was, 'maybe Ty and Reina have some weird genetic incompatibility that creates diseases in their children'. Again, the guilt.
See, logically, my head knows that this, their situation, their life, is largely just luck of the draw. But I feel like I need to make some sort of scientific sense out of it, I need to give it a reason, because my heart can't handle the alternative. And that alternative is that if it can happen to them (TWICE), then it can happen to me and my family and my child(ren). And that, that is almost too terrifying to think about deeply.
And I think that's the main reason its taken me so long to write this. Its simply too hard to think about. Its too hard to reason. And there are those who say this is God's will and I'm finding that to be a hard pill to swallow. I get that we can never attempt to "know the mind of God" and even if you don't believe in God, I don't think you can expect to "know" all the whys and why nots of this world. But, I want to understand, because if I understand then I can stay away from it. I can take a step back from whatever the logical reason is that this is happening. But I know there is no logical reason and that scares me.
Tanner's particular brand of cancer is a double edged sword. Because it is a blood borne cancer, it progresses extremely quickly from Stage I through Stage IV. However, the cure rate is, I believe, over 70% which is wonderful news. That stills leaves a scary 30% to consider and I don't know how Reina can function with that 30% staring at her in the face. I refuse to write it here, but we all know what that 30% means.
And so, I cry. I cry out of sadness for Tanner and Reina and their family and I cry out of happiness and guilt for myself and my family. I'll spend a few more minutes reading stories to Conor tonight and give him a few more kisses before I turn off the light.
If you're interested in finding out more about Tanner and his journey, visit his CaringBridge website at: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/jenkinsfamily. And if you pray, pray for the Jenkins family, and if you don't pray, do whatever it is you do to send out good thoughts, vibes or whatever. And hug your babies.